The workshop’s next two panel sessions explored the effects of the various system designs that countries are using to attract and retain high-skilled migrants. The first panel focused on Canada and Europe and featured three presentations. Charles Beach, emeritus professor at Queen’s University, discussed some of the challenges faced by Canada when it was developing its immigration policy for high-skilled labor. Madeline Zavodny, professor of economics at Agnes Scott College, then compared the U.S. and Canadian immigration systems, and Jonathan Wadsworth, professor of economics at Royal Holloway College, University of London, described the United Kingdom’s experience regarding its immigration policies. The three presentations were followed by comments from Francis Cissna, director of Immigration Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The second panel explored the design of immigration systems in Australia, the Middle East, and Asia and featured two presentations. Graeme Hugo,1 former ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, professor of Geography, and director of the Australia Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, discussed the migration of high-skilled labor to Asian countries, and Lesleyanne Hawthorne, Professor of International Workforce at the University of Melbourne, compared the skilled migration policies and outcomes in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. These two presentations were followed by comments from Anna Maria Mayda, associate professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. An open discussion, moderated by workshop planning committee member Subhash Singhal, followed these panels.
1The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine appreciates the contributions of the late Dr. Graeme Hugo to this workshop summary. Dr. Hugo passed away while this report was being drafted.
The first presenter, Charles Beach, focused on Canada’s immigration policies. The Canadian Constitution of 1867 called for federal and provincial governments to share the responsibility of developing and implementing immigration policy, a system that is still in place today. Federal and provincial governments in Canada also have the flexibility to change policy in response to economic conditions. The current immigration policy was determined in large part by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of 2002. Within the objectives and framework established by this Act, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has a significant amount of latitude and flexibility to make changes to relevant policies. Beach noted that the changes described by Mark Giralt in the preceding panel session have been enacted entirely through ministerial instructions.
Canadian immigration policy includes a few broad immigration classes: economic class, family class, and refugee class. The economic class has accounted for between 60 and 65 percent of the approximately 260,000 immigrants annually, or 0.7 percent of Canada’s population, over the past several years. The family class accounts for about 25 percent of the total, while the refugee class makes up about nine percent of the total.
Within the economic class there are a number of different programs under which migrants are granted visas. The largest of these programs is the supply-driven Federal Skilled Worker Program, which accounts for about 57 percent of all economic class admissions. The demand-driven Provincial Nominee Program, which was created to make immigration decisions more responsive to differences in regional needs, accounts for 25 percent of all economic class admissions. In this program, employers indicate to the provincial governments that they have needs for specific individuals to fill specific jobs, and the provincial governments then forward those names to the federal government. After a federal security check is completed, those individuals are prioritized for admission. The Canadian Experience Class represents about 6 percent of the total economic admissions and has been growing since it was created in 2009. One subgroup within this class consists of skilled temporary foreign workers who have been employed in Canada for a certain amount of time, while the other subgroup includes post-secondary students. Both subgroups are eligible to be converted into permanent immigrant status subject to certain background and security checks. The current minister recently stated that the goal is to grant permanent immigration status to 20,000 individuals in the Canadian Experience Class within a year or so. Two other smaller programs are aimed at increasing the number of live-in caregivers, immigrant investors, and the self-employed, each of which accounts for about 6 percent of the total economic admissions.
Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program uses a points system to determine admission. Canada was the first country to move to points-based admissions, which other countries have adopted and refined. Canada is now trying to implement a program similar to Australia’s program. Applicants receive points based on their skills and adaptability, as well as on the needs of the economy and workforce. Approximately 80 out of 100 possible points are based on long-term factors such as education, age, work experience, and language fluency, with the remaining 20 points based on short-term items such as arranged employment, person suitability, and whether the applicant’s occupation is in demand. Approximately 17 percent of all applicants are screened using the points system.
Over the past 20 years, and particularly over the past 7 years, the mix of the various classes has changed and Canada has moved toward an active employer-driven immigration system. The family and refugee classes have shrunk while the economic class has grown. The target for the economic class is now 70 percent of all immigrants. Within the economic class, the number of visas granted under the Provincial Nominee Program and the Canadian Experience Class has increased substantially, while the number of Federal Skilled Worker Program visas has fallen.
There are a number of challenges confronting Canadian policy makers. One challenge is how to set the overall level of immigration recognizing immigrants’ contributions to the nation beyond economic factors, such as nation building and demographic changes. Immigrants bring skills to fill gaps and, more generally, increase the stock of human capital in the system and provide flexibility in the labor market. Additionally, immigrants tend to be more mobile than non-immigrants in the first 5 years after arriving in a new country. Immigrants also boost economic activity through activities such as home building. Beach noted that immigrants are playing an important role in the economic growth of select provinces in Canada. Manitoba, in particular, has worked aggressively and successfully to attract immigrants to accomplish regional economic goals.
On the other hand, immigration may come with a variety of costs, such as those associated with resettlement and language training. In some parts of Canada, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, large numbers of immigrants have placed a financial burden on school districts that must accommodate children who are not fluent in either English or French. In addition, immigration can lower wages and employment for workers already in Canada, although the impact may not be readily understood. For example, while immigrants may, at least for a while, be paid less than native-born or less-recent immigrant workers with similar skills, lower wages can translate into higher profits for employers who might then choose to increase production which would expand employment opportunities for both immigrant and domestic
workers. In addition, immigrants often come with financial resources and ideas to start new businesses, which can also increase overall employment.
According to Beach, the main lesson from the literature is that immigration’s impact on the domestic workforce depends on the skill level of immigrants. High-skilled immigrants bring with them ideas and social networks, and provide a slight positive effect overall. Middle-skilled immigrants have a more or less negligible impact on wages and employment of domestic workers, while the evidence shows that low-skilled immigrants have a negative impact on domestic wages and employment. He noted that Canada’s attempts to balance immigration numbers with the business cycle were not successful, and that other countries—such as Australia and the United Kingdom—have been more successful at adjusting immigration levels based on their economic growth.
In addition to setting overall immigration levels, Canadian policy makers need to determine the share of economic class immigrants, and among those economic class immigrants, the share of skilled workers. As far as setting goals for the fraction of the economic class that should be skilled versus unskilled labor in order to to generate the largest positive effect on the economy, the focus should be on attracting skilled workers while reducing the number of low-skilled immigrants. However, some positions, such as live-in caregivers or slaughter house workers in western Canada, have failed to attract native-born workers.
The Canadian Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) provides information on the labor market performance of the broad admission classes. This database contains data on every immigrant that has moved to Canada since 1982, and studies using this database have monitored hundreds of thousands of immigrants over the course of a decade or more. According to Beach, the evidence from these studies is clear cut. Economic class immigrants doing better than those in all of the other classes. The trajectory of their earnings over the time that they have been in Canada rose far faster than that of other classes of immigrants and native-born Canadians.
Canadian policy makers also need to determine how skills should be identified and evaluated for the point system screening process. An important consideration is assessing language fluency. Both Canada and Australia now employ a third party to assess language skills rather than simply asking applicants if they are fluent in English or French. When Australia tightened its language fluency requirements, applications from China dropped while those from the United Kingdom increased. Beach noted that countries need to make these decisions in the context of national strengths. Another important consideration for policy makers is determining the appropriate model for immigration policy. Should policy be based on a general human capital perspective, as is the case with Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program, or on immediate specific occupational needs, which is the goal of the Provincial Nominee Program? How
should economic immigrants be selected? Should it be through a supply-driven points system or an employer demand-driven expression of interest system? According to Beach, studies have shown that immigrants who arrive to fill specific demand-driven jobs do better economically over the first 4 to 5 years, but that after that time, the earning trajectories for migrants admitted under the points system exceed that of their demand-driven counterparts, perhaps because of the general adaptable skills of the supply-driven immigrants.
Finally, Canadian policy makers need to determine the proper time frame for evaluating economic and social outcomes of immigration. For example, are proper evaluation criteria short-run, such as the immediate performance of immigrants in the labor market, or longer-term, such as their career earnings or success of the children of immigrants in school? Beach also emphasized that it is important to remember that while businesses always want workers that can succeed today, a nation wants successful citizens for the future.
Beach concluded with a few suggestions for U.S. policy makers. The first was to keep the design of an immigration system simple, transparent, and fair. It is possible to gain flexibility and timeliness by vesting an arms-length agency with decision-making power. Congress can set a framework of objectives rather than setting the number of immigrants each year. Sound immigration policy should include a mix of different admission classes and programs to provide the flexibility to meet changing needs of the economy, something no single program can accomplish easily. Immigration policy should include a points system based on a small number of criteria, particularly age, education, key market skills, and English language fluency. Finally, he suggested that the United States should monitor Canada’s planned “expression of interest” or “expressed entry model” for skilled immigration. “I think this is a great idea that gives employers real input into choosing the best people,” said Beach, adding that the success of this program will depend on operational details.
According to Madeline Zavodny, the United States and Canada have very different admission policies, and these differences have generated markedly different outcomes for immigrants in the two countries. In particular, Canada has better-educated and younger immigrants, although there are concerns about how well these immigrants have fared in Canada. These concerns have been the motivating factor behind the changes that Mark Giralt described in the first panel session. Early indicators suggest that these changes have been quite positive for Canada and Canadian immigrants.
In terms of the big picture, Canada has a larger share of foreign-born residents and admits more permanent residents relative to its population than the United States (Figure 4-1). One difference between the immigrant populations
of the two countries is that almost all of the immigrants in Canada are permanent legal residents or naturalized citizens whereas at least a quarter of the immigrants in the United States are unauthorized. This difference may arise because Canada is further north or because of differences in admissions policies. Canada’s immigration policies, which are based on employer demand and skill, particularly for low-skilled workers, may be the reason for fewer unauthorized workers.
While U.S. immigrants are slightly more likely than natives to have a graduate degree (Figure 4-2), Canadian immigrants are much more likely to have a graduate degree than the general Canadian population. Canada’s new immigration policies that emphasize economic class migrants may be the reason for Canada’s success in attracting relatively higher numbers of graduate degree holders, compared to U.S. immigration policies that emphasize family-based admissions (Figure 4-3). Canada’s emphasis on economic class migrants also results in a greater percentage of immigrants being employed in managerial and professional occupations, and a lower percentage being employed as tradesmen and laborers, or being unemployed or not seeking employment (Figure 4-4).
FIGURE 4-1 The share of foreign born individuals as a percentage of total population. SOURCE: US Census Bureau, Census of Population, 1850-2000, and the American Community Survey, 2010; Statistics Canada; Canadian data correspond to the year after the U.S. Census.
FIGURE 4-2 Immigrants to Canada are more educated compared to those in the United States. SOURCE: Calculations based on 2011 American Community Survey (U.S.) and 2011 National Household Survey (Canada); only includes people aged 25 and older.
FIGURE 4-3 Employment-based immigration is more important in Canada than in the United States. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; average of new permanent residents over 2009-2013 for both.
FIGURE 4-4 More new immigrants are in managerial and professional occupations in Canada than in the United States. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; average of new permanent residents over 2008-2012 for both; does not include unknown occupation or “new workers” or entrepreneurs.
One of the biggest differences between migrants to Canada and the United States is age distribution. This difference can be tied to immigration policy, with Canada’s point system for economic migrants resulting in a greater percentage of younger individuals being granted visas. However, including illegal immigrants would reduce the differences in age distributions; the majority of illegal immigrants in the United States are of working age.
There are two main concerns with Canada’s immigration policy. The first is that Canadian immigrants are highly concentrated geographically and are less mobile than U.S. immigrants. As recently as 2011, about 75 percent of Canada’s immigrants lived in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. While there are states in the United States where immigrants tend to concentrate, the immigrant population is much more concentrated in Canada. The Eastern provinces in Canada are struggling in terms of economic growth and their ability to attract migrants, which led to Canada’s expansion of its Provincial Nominee Program. Mobility within Canada is far lower than in the United States, both among natives and immigrants, which is a problem when the goal is to match people to where job opportunities exist.
A second concern is whether the skills that immigrants have, including those admitted through the economic class, actually match employers’ needs. Evidence suggests that the education and experience that immigrants have acquired abroad are not highly valued by employers in Canada. Similarly, Canadian migrants’ language skills have not been as good in practice as they are on
paper, a finding that triggered Canada’s use of third parties to test language fluency as part of the admissions process.
For science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations, migrants to the United States with post-secondary degrees are more likely to be employed in STEM fields than are those in Canada, a difference that is even more pronounced for PhD holders. However, Canada relies more heavily than the United States on migrants to fill STEM positions because it is not producing as great a share of STEM workers from its native-born college graduates and PhD holders (Figure 4-5). “This is an interesting finding that might suggest some changes that Canada might want to consider or some benefits that the United States is getting out of its policy,” said Zavodny.
As Giralt and Beach had already noted, Canada has changed its economic class immigration policy in response to these concerns. In the 1990s, Canada created its Provincial Nominee Program, which allows the provinces to essentially bypass the federal system, although there are still some federal security checks. As this program has evolved, the provinces have exhibited substantial diversity in terms of the kind of migrants they are trying to attract. Some provinces require migrants to be relatively skilled and to have a job offer. Other provinces, particularly the eastern provinces, are desperate for immigrants and have much broader admission criteria. As a result, many of the Provincial Nominee Program migrants to the eastern provinces are not highly educated or highly skilled. Zavodny noted that cities in the United States that are looking to immigration to stimulate their economies, such as Detroit, have discussed turning to this type of immigration model.
FIGURE 4-5 Canada relies more than the United States on immigrants to fill STEM jobs. SOURCE: Author’s calculations from 2011 American Community Survey and 2011 National Household Survey.
Canada also created the Canadian Experience Class in 2009 to address the mismatch between the skills migrants have and those employers want. Both of these programs have grown substantially in importance since their creation, and the Provincial Nominees Program, in particular, is helping to address the geographic distribution problem in Canada.
There has been tremendous growth in the use of temporary foreign worker visas in Canada over the past decade, far more than in the United States (Figure 4-6). However, the number of temporary work visas granted in the United States is heavily biased towards skilled workers, much more than in Canada. In addition, a larger share of permanent residents in the United States converted from temporary work visas than in Canada. One concern that economists have raised about Canada’s temporary worker program is that provinces that receive a larger inflow of temporary foreign workers experience a reduction in the number of Canadian natives who move to that province possibly resulting in long-run displacement of Canadian natives. In addition, some research shows that the expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Canada has exacerbated regional differentials in unemployment rates, raising another concern at the geographic level.
Early indicators suggest that these new programs are working well for Canada. There have been good retention rates for immigrants in the Provincial Nominees Program and immigrants in this group have high initial earnings and employment rates. Migrants in the Canadian Experience Class also have high initial earnings and employment rates, and there appears to be a high rate of return in terms of education and experience.
FIGURE 4-6 The growth of temporary foreign worker visas. SOURCE: U.S. State Department; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; does not include TN (NAFTA) visas or entries.
Zavodny concluded her presentation with a few examples of how Canada has changed its immigration system over the past decade including:
- increased point systems’ emphasis on age, language ability, and job offers; reduced emphasis on education;
- shifted in admissions from points system to Provincial Nominee Programs;
- created the Canadian Experience Class;
- created the Federal Skilled Trades Program;
- overhauled the temporary foreign worker program;
- eliminated federal immigrant investor and entrepreneur programs; and
- launched the Express Entry system in 2015.
While Canada has introduced a wide range of changes that have made its immigration system more fluid and flexible, the United States has not made similar reforms. Instead, recent reforms have been limited to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and proposed relaxing rules for spouses of H-1B visa holders if a green card application is in process.2 Canada’s temporary visa programs are also much more flexible than those in the United States. For example, Canada has an open temporary work visa that allows skilled workers to work for any employer. Spouses of skilled temporary workers in Canada receive work visas as well. However, both countries have a backlog of applicants. Zavodny did not endorse a points system as the solution to attracting high-skilled migrants; instead she endorsed a policy based on flexibility and willingness to change.
According to Jonathan Wadsworth, although immigration to the United Kingdom has increased substantially over the past 20 years, the country is still in the “middle ranking” for immigration among OECD countries. Currently, immigrants represent about 13 percent of the U.K.’s population. The rate of increase over the past 20 years has made immigration a hot topic in the United Kingdom. Indeed, public opinion polls show that immigration is overtaking the economy as the issue that most concerns people in Britain, and the governing
2The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency did not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA on February 18, 2015 as initially planned and had suspended implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents as of October 21, 2015. Available at http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction#3 [Accessed on October 21, 2015].
coalition of liberals and conservatives that came to power in 2010 has stated their intent to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament in 2015. This would be a drastic cut from the current level of immigration, which is hovering between 200,000 and 250,000 immigrants per year.
What makes this huge reduction particularly challenging is that Britain is a member of the European Union, which means that the nation must allow virtually unrestricted movement of EU citizens into and out of the country. This being the case, the entire reduction in net immigration will need to come from restricting immigration from outside of the EU. Britain is attempting to accomplish this by restricting work permits to skilled workers and students, and for family reunification, with some provisions for asylum seekers.
The U.K. migration system is a points-based system that was introduced to manage work- and study-related migration of citizens of countries in the European Economic Area, which includes the 28 countries in the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The system consists of five tiers, plus provisions for family reunification:
- Tier 1: highly skilled (postgraduate/PhD) migrants coming for work reasons without a definite job offer
- Tier 2: skilled migrant workers with a definite job offer
- Tier 3: low-skilled migrant workers
- Tier 4: students
- Tier 5: youth mobility schemes and temporary workers
This system is demand-driven. Both students and migrants seeking employment must have a sponsor and that sponsor has to be licensed by the government and obtain a certificate of sponsorship. The unique feature of the U.K. points-based system is that the points are applied to jobs broadly rather than to specific individuals. However, Britain is currently moving away from a points-based system towards explicit requirements, which include that a job is a “graduate job” and that there is a minimum pay threshold. One of the duties of the U.K. Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), of which Wadsworth is a member, is to define graduate jobs. The MAC is a non-governmental public body created in 2007 to provide evidence-based advice to the government on immigration issues only upon request of the Home Office.3 The five members of the MAC are all academic economists appointed for a 5-year period by the Minister
3The U.K.’s Home Office is the government department responsible for immigration and passports, drug policy, crime policy and counter-terrorism and works to ensure visible, responsive and accountable policing in the UK. Information available at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office [Accessed on November 23, 2015].
of Immigration through an open and fair competition. They are supported by a secretariat of economists, researchers, and policy officials. The MAC produces and publishes reports with recommendations, but it cannot decide policy. The government can accept or reject the MAC’s recommendations, and it can and does implement immigration reforms without consulting the MAC.
One MAC responsibility is to produce “Shortage Occupation Lists,” or those occupations that are skilled, in shortage, and could be filled by immigrants. Employers submit evidence that their shortages or vacancies satisfy those three criteria. The challenge for MAC has been to determine how to measure shortages. The MAC developed a list of 12 potential measures of shortages using data on wages, vacancies, and employment changes. These measures are supplemented by consultations with stakeholders. At the end of the analysis, if a job passes the majority of the indicators, the MAC deems the occupation to be in shortage.
Another task assigned to the MAC has been to develop quotas that will enable Britain to meet the targets of reducing net immigration inflows to the tens of thousands. For skilled workers, the MAC set the target at 20,700. Wadsworth noted that Britain has not met this target in part due to the recent economic downturn which has reduced demand. Meeting the nation’s long-term needs for skilled workers may test this quota in the near future.
In summary, the MAC’s independence, along with its perceived expertise and evidence-driven reports, are seen as key features in the role of the decision-making process with regard to immigration policy. The U.K. has been a world leader in developing this type of independent advisory committee as an integral component of the decision-making process.
In commenting on the three panel presentations, as well as those in the first panel, Francis Cissna agreed that the Canadian and Australian systems are more nimble than the U.S. system. He noted, however, that the United States can make some administrative reforms to its system, and that there may be a few changes coming over the next several months that might help improve the situation. While Canada can enact a provincial level immigration system, the United States cannot, he noted as was recently reaffirmed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that blocked most of what Arizona was trying to enact on its own in terms of immigration policy.4
Several years ago, DHS received independent inquiries from a few western states interested in establishing their own private temporary worker pro-
4Arizona et al v. United States, No.11-182, Supreme Court of the United States (June 25, 2012).
grams. “They were fed up with the slowness and inefficiency of the existing temporary worker programs, especially for agricultural workers,” said Cissna. “They said they had this whole system ready to go. They were going to recruit the workers. They were going to get the employers lined up. They were going to enforce it. They were going to give them all identity cards and make sure they lived in proper housing. They were even going to make sure the workers would leave.” One of the states, he added, had even drawn up a state law that the legislature was poised to pass contingent on receiving the department’s cooperation on letting the workers into the country. While Cissna acknowledged that this was an interesting idea, he did not think these proposals were feasible, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration laws. In the end, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff denied the request and that ended the effort.
Cissna agreed with Zavodny’s statement that Canadian immigrants are, on the whole, much better educated than the immigrant pool in the United States. The reason for this is that the majority of U.S. immigrants are admitted under family-based programs while the majority of Canadian immigrants are admitted on employment-based visas. While many family-based immigrants, who account for 700,000 to 800,000 out of the 1 million immigrants entering the United States annually, are highly educated, they come to this country without benefit of any job offer or other systematic assistance that employment-based immigrants have. One area that needs to be addressed is how to better take advantage of the highly-educated and high-skilled immigrants that enter the country in the family pool. He noted that there are a number of organizations, associations, and other entities that work on immigration issues, particularly within the OECD, that have many good ideas about how to address this issue, but the United States has not acted on any of this ideas in any kind of concerted manner so far. He was heartened to see a small section devoted to high-skilled immigration issues in the Senate-passed immigration bill in 2013.
Referring to the earlier presentation by Charles Beach, Cissna acknowledged the challenge the U.S. faces when trying to determine the breakdown between skilled and unskilled employment-based immigration. He said that he believed that the number of green cards issued for low-skill or no-skill immigrants not in the family stream is limited to around 5,000 annually, and fewer than that are actually issued in any given year. The remaining 140,000 green cards are issued to people with college and advanced degrees. Cissna said that if comprehensive immigration reform ever makes it back onto the legislative agenda, an important policy decision will be determining whether the country should create more opportunities for low-skill individuals to get green cards, an issue of particular interest to the agricultural community. Today, workers who come to fill agricultural jobs would not qualify for any of the employment-based visa categories that exist. Lacking such a mechanism for these workers to
become permanent residents would create a permanent cycle of temporary agricultural workers, which Cissna believes would not be the most desirable situation as a matter of national policy.
Cissna agreed with Beach’s suggestion that the United States should closely monitor the “expression of interest model.” He cautioned that even if that program is successful, it would be difficult to draw lessons for the United States given the way the legislative process works in this country. He did see a place to consider a number of creative ideas should comprehensive immigration reform ever make it back onto the legislative agenda but noted that the United States has a “bad record” when it comes to learning lessons from other countries’ immigration models. As an example, he recounted the story of attending a conference and showing an Australian colleague the new comprehensive immigration bill that was before the Senate. Her comment was that the approach that the U.S. bill offered to attract more STEM workers was similar to Australia’s failed approach. However, Cissna has noticed that draft U.S. immigration bills since then have eliminated the provision found in Australia’s policy change that let sham schools and visa mills result in unqualified immigrants getting green cards.
He noted that Britain’s creation of the MAC is one instance where U.S. policy makers are paying close attention and are attempting to draw important lessons to inform the creation of a commission that would establish caps on immigrant visa categories or even set wage levels. The legislation passed by the Senate last year contained some language to create a similar commission.
The United States has also taken note of Canadian actions to tighten and crack down on intercompany transfers in the wake of a number of incidents over the past few years that brought those programs into the spotlight. Cissna said that the United States has not yet followed suit, in large part because most of the steps that Canada took would require legislation in this country, but DHS is following what is happening in Canada in this area with keen interest. Similarly the United States is tracking the impact of Canada ending its investor visa program and replacing it with a startup visa program and a recently published report from the MAC suggesting that the investment amounts required to procure an investor visa should increase in the U.K.
With respect to temporary visa programs, Cissna agreed with Zavodny that those entering Canada with temporary visas were less skilled than those with U.S. temporary work visas. He said that one reason for this difference is that the H-2A and H-2B programs for temporary seasonal workers in the United States are either capped at a very low level relative to what U.S. businesses need or are underutilized. Legislative reform addressing those two programs in particular, or replacing them with another program that is functional and easy to use by employers, could change these numbers. In 2014, well over 90 percent of H-2A and H-2B visa holders were from Mexico, but if those programs
were reformed in a way that made them more attractive to U.S. employers and to workers from all over the world, the profile of people coming to work in those programs would likely change.
As far as steps that the United States has taken, Cissna explained that the proposed rule change that would allow spouses of H-1B visa holders who had applied for green cards to obtain work visas, should be finalized within the next few months. A related U.S. proposal would let spouses of student visa holders study part-time, but not work. He also listed steps that the United States took in 2008 allowing foreign students with STEM degrees to continue working in the country for 29 months after graduation, a seminal regulation that has attracted on the order of 10,000 individuals annually, said Cissna.5 In addition, in 2008, DHS extended the time that Canadians can work in the United States from one year to three years.
Building on the earlier talks on Canada’s immigration system by Beach and Zavodny, Lesleyanne Hawthorne provided a comparative analysis of how Canada, Australia, and New Zealand compete for and collaborate to attract skilled migrants. “We are hugely influenced by each other’s policies, we share our data with each other in a very transparent way, and the degree of replication of whatever works is striking, particularly recently where I think Canada is moving much closer to the Australian and New Zealand models,” said Hawthorne.
A decade ago, the Canadian and Australian governments commissioned Hawthorne to compare the two countries’ degree of reliance on migrant professionals by field. Even in 2001, it was clear that both countries relied heavily on migrant professionals in a wide range fields, including engineering, computing, medicine, science, commerce and business, architecture, accounting, the arts and humanities, nursing, and education. In engineering and computing, for example, around half of the professionals in both countries were migrants. In Australia—she did not present 2011 data for Canada—the proportion of for-
5The Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment program that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Under the prior rules, an F-1 student could be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of practical training either before (pre) and/or after (post-) completion of studies. Under the new rule, certain students will be eligible to receive a 17-month extension of post-completion OPT. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, available at http://www.uscis.gov/archive/archive-news/questions-and-answers-extension-optional-practical-training-program-qualified-students [Accessed on November 23, 2015].
eign-born professionals in these fields increased between 2001 and 2011, and over 25 percent of these migrant professionals had arrived in Australia within the past 5 years. “There has been an extraordinary intake of degree-qualified professionals, and so the big challenge for these three governments with proactive skilled migrant policies is to decide which of the pathways [they] wish to prioritize and which mechanisms [they] wish to select,” said Hawthorne.
Noting that she was not going to discuss policies related to two categories of immigrants—dependents of labor migrants and family and humanitarian migrants—and acknowledging that many of the individuals in these categories can also be skilled, Hawthorne focused on three groups that each government proactively selects: temporary labor, permanent skilled labor, and migrants who enter via the study-migration pathway (with the option of converting status to become skilled migrants). Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not set annual caps, though each country does set quotas for permanent skilled migrants. Canada and Australia set quotas annually while New Zealand sets its cap on a yearly basis.
In the decade prior to 2010, all three countries shared a comparable strategy for attracting skilled migrants, both for economic and population growth, and all three defined a successful skilled immigrant as one who quickly integrated into the labor market in a job utilizing their skills. Australia also added the metric that successful migrants are the ones that are making a positive fiscal contribution in the early settlement period. In addition to this overarching measure of value, the three countries shared a number of strategies. The first was to reserve between 60 and 70 percent of permanent intakes for skilled individuals. Second, the individuals were increasingly selected based on employer, state, or territorial sponsorship rather than points, a prioritization process that Hawthorne called the new paradigm in high-skilled immigration policy. Third, each country had placed increasing importance on demand-driven temporary worker flows, which were not capped and substantially increased the scale of labor migration. Most importantly, in the past decade first New Zealand and then Australia introduced new selection paradigms based on a two-step “expression of interest” mechanism strategy that Canada is about to adopt. It is essential to note all three counties have been increasing their use of data and analysis to constantly fine-tune immigration policy so that it emphasizes those pathways that work best in terms of meeting national employment goals.
Although the three countries, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, shared a number of features in their immigration policies, there were also significant policy differences among them. Canada’s migration policy in the 2000s produced a cohort of highly skilled immigrants that were disproportionately degree-qualified compared to Australia and particularly New Zealand (which
attracted lower skilled migrants through all pathways). The source countries for Canada were highly diverse, with very few individuals coming from major English-speaking countries. In fact, Canada did not have a mandatory requirement for independent language testing in either English or French as a condition of eligibility. Canada also lacked a pre-migration assessment of whether a migrant’s skill qualifications would be recognized in Canada, and the country did not have a study-migration pathway until the Canadian Experience Class was created in 2008. Finally, the wide range of processing times lags (between 6 and 10 years), was an issue of major concern to successive governments. One of the challenges that Canada faced, as a consequence of these issues, was its relatively poor success at getting economic category migrants into high-skilled professions at speeds relative to Australia and New Zealand. In 2001, fewer than one in five high-skilled migrants were employed in such professions, and for migrants from many countries, including India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and the Philippines, fewer than one-third of all skilled migrants were employed in other professional or managerial positions. Hawthorne noted that data from both Canada’s and Australia’s sponsored temporary foreign workers program indicated that except for agricultural positions (which for Canada are filled largely by temporary workers from Mexico), employers have a definite preference to sponsor workers from OECD countries and/or those who are native English or (in Canada) French speakers. After many years of interviewing employers in multiple STEM fields, Hawthorne says that it is clear that strong communication and technological skills are critical in the global knowledge economy for migrants to be attractive as potential employees.
The demand for high-skilled individuals with language and technical proficiency is a problem that Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are grappling with, given that many contemporary immigrant source countries are at a different stage of educational resourcing and technological development. Hawthorne has been following global educational sector rankings data annually in relation to China and India. According to the Shanghai Jiao Tong Ranking in 20156, India has just one institution in the world top 500 despite its enormous growth in skilled migrant flows and the rapid development of the Indian econ-
6Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is released by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong Universities. Universities are ranked by several indicators of academic or research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science, papers indexed in major citation indices, and the per capita academic performance of an institution. For each indicator, the highest scoring institution is assigned a score of 100, and other institutions are calculated as a percentage of the top score. Available at http://www.shanghairanking.com [Accessed on November 23, 2015].
omy. This stands in stark contrast to the rapid scientific and rankings progression of China, which has over 25 institutions in the top 500 ranking.7
In addition, different countries have different requirements to recognize foreign degree holders, which may affect the ability of the highly skilled migrant workers to obtain a job in his or her field. Only 19 percent of Indian medical school graduates who had migrated to Canada from 1996 to 2001 were working in medicine by 2001, while 66 percent were working in Australia. The difference is that Australia has established multiple pathways to recognition, and migrants were pre-tested for language and technical proficiency before securing a visa. Technical recognition in the host country may be burdensome—for example, foreign-educated engineers could have to take as many as 24 exams, in addition to acquiring a year of Canadian experience, to demonstrate competency and secure full recognition for their skills.
Because Canada, in the decade prior to 2010, treated all human capital the same, employment outcomes were worsening for skilled migrants. According to a Statistics Canada analysis, they were worse for skilled migrants in the early settlement period than for individuals in the family category who were unscreened for human capital attributes. Research showed that it could take 20 years on average for skilled migrants to reach wage parity with native Canadians, with many individuals never achieving this.
Australia, by contrast, changed the selection criteria used in 1999 based on labor market integration evidence, and has continued to fine-tune this policy in the 15 years since. This was associated with immediate benefits. In 2001, around 60 percent of skilled migrants were employed 6 months after arrival in Canada, compared to 83 percent in Australia.
There are many ways to assess skills and proficiency of foreign-educated workers, for example, through mandating “vocational” levels of English language proficiency (the standard required for registration in select fields). Since 2009, the Australian government has required temporary and permanent migrant professionals to have an International Language Testing System minimum score of Band 6 on reading, writing, speaking, and listening (or equivalent test), and higher where it is required by regulatory bodies as a condition of professional practice. This strategy has had a demonstrable impact. In terms of migrants in health-related occupations, an analysis of 30,000 candidates from 2007-2011 found that 52 percent of physicians met Australia’s language proficiency requirement, while in nursing only 17 percent of applicants met the language proficiency requirement, with nurses from the Philippines doing particu-
larly poorly. Now, Canada has also instituted mandatory speaking, listening, reading, and writing proficiency tests.
Like Canada, Australia prioritizes selection based on skills, so that two-thirds of intakes are skilled and of those, two-thirds are professionals. Source countries are also highly diverse, but unlike Canada, Australia placed a greater emphasis on native and near-native English speakers. This did not reduce diversity of immigrants to Australia. From 2004-2005 to 2009-2010, just 17 percent of Australia’s skilled migrants were native English speaking professionals, and 80 percent of its skilled migrants came from Asia. Processing times in Australia were relatively short compared to those in Canada.
By 2011, Australia had positive employment outcomes in global terms. According to Hawthorne, over 90 percent of those who were selected by employers were working full time and of those, 90 percent were working in a job that was skilled or categorized as professional or managerial. Even those individuals selected while abroad (offshore) were doing well, with 76 percent of this cohort employed full time and the bulk of those individuals working in high-skilled occupations. Overall, implementing stringent selection criteria did not reduce the supply of skilled migrants nor did it eliminate migrants from non-English speaking countries. It did, however, produce much better outcomes. This also improved total migration outcomes (across skilled family and humanitarian categories). For example, according to the 2011 Census, 63 percent of medical professionals from sub-Saharan Africa, 60.8 percent from India, and 57.6 percent from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, were employed in the medical field, while nearly half of all medical professionals from the Philippines, who were considered relatively disadvantaged, were employed in their field. At this time, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh had supplanted the U.K. and Ireland as the major countries of origin for medical migrants.
For Australia, STEM migrants are extremely important, with most of the STEM migrants entering the country via temporary entry pathways that are driven largely by employer and state demands. This is the preferred mechanism, because the selection process is fast-tracked, the applicants are coming for pre-arranged work, the location can be mandated, and the pathway can be fine tuned or even discontinued depending on the economic cycle. Employers prefer to select both permanent and temporary skilled migrants who are already in Australia. As a result, employers are looking at former international students as well as temporary foreign workers.
The employment outcomes for skilled migrants are largely positive as a result of these policy changes. Now, 68 percent of skilled migrants have a job in their field within 6 months, and 73 percent have a field-related job within a year, far exceeding family and humanitarian migrants, with the skilled migrants earning a far higher salary. However, international students who stayed in Aus-
tralia after graduation were far less likely to have high-skilled jobs and earned far lower initial wages than the government had presumed.
For New Zealand, immigration is considered essential for demographic survival. In a 50-year period after World War II, some 2 million migrants moved to New Zealand, with an associated net population gain of just over 200,000 people. Today, New Zealand gets far fewer degree-qualified immigrants than Australia at every level of intake, whether they are permanent skilled migrants, temporary migrants, or former international students. This may not have been a problem when New Zealand’s economy was more dependent on agriculture, but is a challenge today with the growth of the country’s high-tech industries.
Like Australia, New Zealand has instituted English language proficiency testing, but has set a higher bar for demonstrating proficiency. In 2004, it mandated an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of Band 6.5 (compared to Band 5 at that time in Australia, rising to Band 6 in 2007). As a result, nearly half of all skilled migrants to New Zealand are native English speakers, and beyond that there is a clear bias towards OECD countries such as France and Germany. New Zealand has established a study-migration pathway, but most of the international students who came through this program through 2010 were enrolled in non-degree courses, with residency via the study-migration pathway taking around 10 years.
One of New Zealand’s challenges is retaining its migrant and native STEM workers. For example, a third of New Zealand’s new engineering graduates leave the country within 3 years. The same is true for the country’s medical workforce, which loses a third of its foreign-born doctors within a year and two-thirds within 3 years, typically to Australia. Moreover, those who are most likely to leave are also the most likely to pass professional registration examinations, are relatively young, and are trained in programs with standards comparable to those of OECD countries. Out-migration from New Zealand, however, has dropped in the past year, reflecting a stronger economic growth.
There has been a major policy convergence between the three countries based on analysis of data and the ability to fine tune policy in response to the research findings made possible with those data. Canada plans to reform its immigration policy to adopt all the key measures implemented by Australia or New Zealand. As of January 1, 2015, the Express Entry immigration selection or “expression of interest” system is in operation.8 In terms of maximizing labor market outcomes, the three countries are committed to a two-step migration process that includes pre-migration English screening and qualifications assessment, and greater levels of sponsorship. The three countries have all been
refining their assessments of occupational needs by level of experience, with the goal of competing globally for the most talented individuals.
Although each country still has significant challenges to address, the differences among the three have largely vanished. Canada has set a goal to get improved skilled migration outcomes in terms of early employment, and key selection mechanisms the country has adopted has been modeled on those developed by Australia or New Zealand. While the Canadian Experience Class is small so far, policymakers have expressed interest in increasing the size of this group. Also, there is still a need to secure higher-level value from major temporary programs such as the live-in caregiver program. Australia has to deal with the student migration challenge and is looking to refine its temporary labor migration program. For New Zealand, on the other hand, the big challenges are going to be attracting enough people at the right skill level in an increasingly competitive global OECD environment, and retaining people with the right skill level to match the industry needs of the future.
According to Graeme Hugo, Asia is increasingly becoming a destination for skilled migrants rather than just a source of them. Asia is undergoing rapid growth as well as significant structural changes. In 1990, Asia represented 21 percent of the global economy, a figure that has already risen to 29 percent and that is projected to account for one-third of the global economy by the 2020s. As Asian countries grow, they are attempting to steer their economies into high-end technology fields by emphasizing innovation. Some Asian nations are making concerted efforts to improve the quality of their best universities so that they are ranked in the top tier of universities around the world. For these reasons, skilled migration into and within Asia has become more significant. This trend is being amplified by the fact that some countries, such as Japan and Singapore, have a growing labor deficit that they need to fill via immigration.
Discussions about the key structural changes occurring in international migration within Asia and about the broad trends in skilled migration in this region are constrained by a lack of data. Unlike in the OECD, there are no comprehensive data sets on migration for most of the countries in Asia. Since most of the migration that is occurring is temporary, very little of it is captured in census data. Furthermore, Asian countries are reluctant to classify migrants as either skilled or unskilled because they are reluctant to show their dependence on skilled migration.
Given the data limitations, Hugo noted that he has been studying international migration in Asia for four decades and that the past few years have been the most dynamic with respect to changes in the immigration systems among the Asian nations. In 2013, the United Nations reported that Asia has the fast-
est growing number of immigrants, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, with immigrant populations growing by 4.5 percent per year. Increasingly, inter-Asian immigration is dominating immigration within the region, with south-to-south migration now surpassing that of south-to-north migration. The United Nations has also reported that between 2005 and 2013 the number of Asian countries with policies aimed at increasing the number of skilled migrants has more than doubled from 8 to 17, which is an indicator of the great interest within the region with respect to skilled migration.
Today, however, migration in Asia is still overwhelmingly low-skilled. Countries with a labor surplus—predominantly China, Indonesia, and India—are sending significant numbers of low-skilled workers to countries with labor deficits, leading to substantial movement of low-skilled workers, particularly to the Middle East. There has always been an element of “expatriate high-skilled migration with a post-colonial flavor" to it, but it has been tiny, in large part because most countries in Asia had restrictive migration policies for much of the post-colonial period. In addition, many Asian countries have feared losing their national identity due to an influx of immigrants. As a result, immigration is tightly restricted and most Asian countries have no avenues for people to become citizens if they are not natives of the country.
These attitudes are changing, however, and several countries believe that they need to adjust their migration policy to attract the high-skilled labor needed to compete in the global economy. Hugo noted there is a stealth component to immigration via marriage migration: young people are traveling more throughout the region and returning home with spouses from other countries. In Korea, for example, some 16 percent of all births are from mixed marriages, a departure from the cultural homogeneity of the past.
One factor driving the demand for skilled migrants is that the local education systems are not teaching students the skills that are needed to participate in the global economy’s labor market. In Southeast Asian countries, there is not enough emphasis on the sciences, technology, and engineering, perhaps due to the impact of colonialism on higher education systems. There are also significant concerns about the quality of education in some areas.
There are a number of distinctive features of skilled migration within Asia. First, migration is overwhelmingly temporary, with only Singapore being favorably disposed to grant skilled immigrants ready access to permanent residency and citizenship. Second, whereas in earlier generations the expatriate population was overwhelmingly from OECD countries, the new generations of skilled migrants are predominantly from Asia, and in particular from India and the Philippines. Because larger scale migration in Asia is in its infancy, it operates at a low level of capacity with a lack of governance.
While governments are thinking about how to boost migration for economic reasons, there is a growing anti-migrant sentiment amongst the general
public, particularly towards skilled migrants. This anti-migrant sentiment arises because of high unemployment among native youth and university graduates. There is an increasingly strong nexus between high-skilled immigration and student migration. Several Asian countries, for example, are now significant players in the student migration arena. Several of these countries have policies meant to encourage students to stay and work once they have completed their degree. Return migration is a major part of the skilled migration flows into these areas, with many Asian natives returning to their home countries after gaining work experience or finishing their college or graduate degree abroad. “These countries are becoming very competitive when it comes to salaries,” said Hugo. “Asian cities are now vibrant, exciting places, and for young people very attractive destinations.”
There are four regions in Asia that are experiencing large inflows of migrants: Japan, Singapore, China, and the Middle East. Despite the belief that Japan is totally anti-migrant, the country has been open to skilled migration since 1990. While language and culture are significant barriers to entry, developments in immigration policy have taken place, including the institution of a points system. Firms in Japan are now directly recruiting skilled workers.
In Singapore, 36 percent of the population is officially documented as foreign-born, but the actual rate may be much higher, with a significant proportion being skilled migrants. Skilled migrants in Singapore have a relatively easy path to permanent residence, although there has been a lot of opposition from the local community. Nonetheless, the Singaporean government is determined to continue issuing some 20,000 to 25,000 new permanent residence visas to skilled migrants each year. If this current trend continues, migrants will make up 46 percent of the total population of Singapore by 2020. The migration policy is closely aligned with Singapore’s efforts to transform its economy as a global hub for knowledge-intensive industries with an emphasis on high-end technology and innovation.
Emerging economies with labor surpluses are struggling with high unemployment rates for recent graduates and highly educated natives. However, there is a significant mismatch between the skills and quality of many of these graduates and the demands of these countries’ economies. This is particularly true in Southeast Asia, where shortages of high-skilled labor have been well-documented. While China is a huge supplier of skilled migrants to OECD countries, the 2010 Chinese census also listed 220,000 foreign registered workers and 480,000 temporary registered workers. The number of foreign-born workers is small relative to the population but is growing. In 2013, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a definitive statement about developing a skilled migration policy for China that will depend heavily on increasing the number of foreign students studying at Chinese universities from about 265,000 in 2010 to over a half million by 2020.
Immigrants from the Middle East currently account for about 14.6 percent of immigrants worldwide and has dominated global migration along with the United States for a considerable period of time. “The Middle East,” Hugo said “has the overwhelming characteristic of having an amazingly liberal immigration system dominated by the caliphate sponsorship system, but a watertight process of not giving citizenship or naturalizing the population. There are no ways of migrants becoming citizens.” In the aftermath of the civil unrest in Tunesia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and other Arab countries, there is a growing concern among the governments in the region about the high numbers of unemployed young people, and several governments, including those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar, have instituted quotas for employers to hire locals.
Return migration has a long history in Asia, but with very little data, it is hard to draw specific conclusions about the role that it is playing in meeting Asia’s demand for high-skilled labor. Using extensive Australian data on migration to track Asian migrants over a decade-long period suggests that there is significant return migration, particularly to East Asia. One-third of Australia’s Chinese immigrants of the past two decades have returned to China. However, even after they return to China, these return migrants continue to interact with people back in Australia. China has recently developed policies that encourage its emigrants to remain in their new countries and has facilitated engagement with this diaspora, particularly those in universities. A survey of over 300 Chinese scientists in Australia found that all of them had faculty assignments at Chinese universities in addition to their Australian positions.
In conclusion, south-to-north migration may be entering a period of significant slowdown following the global financial crisis. Skilled migration within Asia is relatively small scale today, but there are signs that there will be significant growth in the years ahead, particularly within the university sector. Student migration is already increasing. Still to be determined is whether Asia will become a competitor with OECD countries for skilled migrants or if the large-scale development of a middle class in the region will increase Asia’s attractiveness to high-skilled individuals. This may also have a potential impact on OECD countries’ abilities to recruit high-skilled migrants from Asia.
Anna Maria Mayda started her comments and review of the preceding two talks with a broad overview of the kind of skill-selective immigration policies that countries have adopted, particularly those analyzed by Hawthorne and Hugo. There are two types of skill-selective immigration policies: immigrant-driven and employer-driven. Under immigrant-driven systems, an immigrant can be admitted to the country without having a job offer. In this case, the most important factors are human capital attributes. These immigrant-
driven systems have usually been referred to as points-based systems, and were introduced in Canada in 1967, in Australia in 1989, and in New Zealand in 1991. Two different economic models underpin the attribution of points; one is based on a short-term perspective in which there is a need to fill gaps in the labor market. This is the case in Australia. There can also be a longer term perspective in which education is the main focus and there is less of a need to fill specific gaps. This is the case for Canada. Under an employer-driven system, an employer has to make a job offer in order to grant admission to a high-skilled foreign worker. The U.S. H-1B visa is one example of an employer-driven system, and it appears that Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are moving to a certain extent towards such a system. In Asia, while the old view was that allowing foreign workers to enter was harmful to domestic workers and should be restricted, there is a new view emerging that skilled migration does benefit the receiving country. In fact, Asian countries have initiated strategies targeting skilled migrants.
In addition to these two strategies, there are others that countries can use to attract skilled migrants. In some settings, immigration reform is not the best policy instrument. One effective policy instrument is to first attract university students or faculty. A merit-based university rewarding scientific achievement both in the recruitment of professors and in their pay and teaching load may be more successful than the points-based system in attracting high-skilled workers. “That is basically what the United States has done besides the H-1B visa program,” said Mayda, who characterized U.S. institutions of higher education as highly successful attractants for skilled individuals. While it is true that it is not always easy for foreign students to remain in the United States after graduation, many of them do stay and contribute to the pool of skilled migrants in the United States.
The U.S. business community agrees that universities are important for attracting skilled migrants. Bill Gates testified to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology in March 2008 that we must reform our education system and our immigration policies to address the shortage of scientists and engineers in this country. If this doesn’t happen, American companies will not have the talent they need to innovate and compete. This is consistent with Hugo’s presentation that a key element in the effort of Asian countries to raise skilled immigration levels involves improved student mobility, sending natives overseas to return as skilled workers, and attracting students from other countries.
The governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have, to a certain extent, been able to overcome the political opposition to recruiting skilled migrants, and some Asian countries are starting to do so as well. In general, skilled migrants are likely to increase the receiving country’s income through higher output, investment, and employment. Moreover, the contribution of
immigrants to the fiscal balance of the country improves with their skill level, although only a few countries have devised policies aimed at selecting immigrants on the basis of their skills. The share of governments around the world with policies aimed at attracting skilled migrants increased between 2005 and 2013, but the absolute numbers remained low. “Skilled migration has positive impacts on productivity, on patenting, on also very strong knowledge spillover effects, and yet you don’t see this opening up countries to skilled migrants,” she said. “At the same time, there are some countries that have been successful from this point of view, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, so that raises the question of what political economy determinants are behind this [success].”
Two major factors driving the political economy of skilled migration policies are public opinion and interest group dynamics. While it may be natural to think that public opinion is only resistant to unskilled migrants, this is not necessarily the case, especially among skilled natives. If you are a U.S. doctor, for example, you may not welcome foreign doctors, said Mayda, although there are huge barriers to entry for foreign doctors to immigrate and practice here. Canada’s steps to limit temporary foreign workers are, at least in part, in reaction to public opinion. In fact, these responses are exactly what Mayda has found in her research on public opinion. Her research shows that the higher the education level of an individual, the lower the likelihood that an individual will be in favor of skilled migration. However, the richer an individual gets, the more likely they are to be pro skilled migration. Education and income may have opposite effects on public attitudes toward skilled migrants. Those with higher education and those with lower incomes are often against skilled migration.
Jennifer Hunt opened the discussion by commenting on the fact that within Canada, Quebec runs a completely separate immigration system with different criteria than the rest of the country, a fact that none of the presentations or discussions so far had highlighted. She explained that skilled migrants from Haiti and French-speaking countries in Africa have been able to immigrate to Quebec and find employment, take English classes, and then move elsewhere in Canada without restriction. Quebec’s immigration system also awards points for spouses under the same criteria as the skilled migrant and that the decision to issue a work visa depends on the combined score of the skilled migrant and spouse. Points are also awarded if the potential migrant has family in Quebec or even spent time in Quebec. Students in Quebec are eligible for an expedited procedure to gain a work visa. Hunt said that although all applications approved in Quebec have to go through the Canadian government for
final approval, the federal government never rejects the applicants that Quebec accepts.
Stephen Merrill, former board director at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, noted that the MAC operates similar to the Academies where the government asks a question of experts, has no control over the selection of those experts, and can then accept, reject, or ignore the advice given by the experts. In that regard, he asked Wadsworth if the U.K. government queried the MAC as to how to reduce the net number of immigrants in the least disruptive way. Wadsworth replied that the MAC was not consulted; however, the MAC was asked to examine the role that skilled work permits could play in meeting the reduced target for immigration. The MAC provided a calculation of net fiscal contribution of immigrants, showing that skilled migrants contributed more to the British economy than other immigrants.
Merrill also asked what the MAC thinks about alternatives to immigration as a way to meet skill shortages given that there is a significant difference between the timeframe for admitting an immigrant and the timeframe for rescaling or retooling the workforce. More specifically, Merrill asked if the MAC’s analysis extended beyond immediate needs to longer term considerations, such the effect that immigration would have on the desire or attractiveness for natives to prepare for a job in a particular field. Wadsworth said the MAC was asked whether it would be sensible to introduce sunset clauses into the shortage occupation list, with the idea being that employers would have to do something about the shortage besides relying on immigration after some period of time. However, the MAC concluded that having a blanket sunset period was probably too restrictive given that certain occupations have more skill shortages than others and to impose an economy-wide sunset period would be too prescriptive. He explained that what employers have to do now, if they have been on the list for a certain number of years, is to submit information that says they have tried to do something to alleviate those shortages through means other than immigration.
Hawthorne then asked Beach to comment on the reasons for the low uptake to date in the Canadian Experience Class. Beach replied that he has heard that there has been substantial and growing use of this class by foreign students who have graduated with degrees from Canadian institutions of higher education. As for the temporary foreign worker component of that program, he hypothesized that many of these workers may be applying through the Provincial Nominee Program instead. Hawthorne also asked Beach to comment on the argument that the Canadian Live-in Caregiver Program is really a de facto Filipino family reunification program rather than one that is genuinely attracting people to fill live-in caregiver positions. Beach responded by noting that the majority of individuals admitted under this program are in fact from the Philippines and that many of them are related to earlier Filipino migrants. He did not
know, however, whether the government is planning to do something about this situation. Beach did say that over the next 20 years, he expects the program will change from one used by people who can afford to have someone from the Philippines help around the house and take care of the children, to one used by the elderly who need help in order to continue living at home. Given the high cost of living in a nursing home or long-term care facility as opposed to living at home, Beach said he expects the Canadian government to be sympathetic to this idea.
Matt Graham, from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force, asked the panel members to comment on what they thought was a lesson, either positive or negative, that the United States could learn from other countries’ immigration systems. Beach said that on the positive side, the MAC might serve as a good model for looking seriously at specific aspects of immigration reform. He noted that the Congressional Budget Office is well respected by democratic nations worldwide and could serve as a model to develop a nonpartisan mechanism that would be nimble and take some of the politically loaded decisions out of the hands of elected officials. On the negative side, Beach said that Canada’s track record with entrepreneurs and investors has not been good and those programs can serve as cautionary tales. Wadsworth added that the MAC’s independence and acceptance by both government and the media as a nonpartisan source of information has been a key to its success. He noted that one thing that is important not to do is to set arbitrary targets for immigration over which there is no real control.
Cissna said that one thing that the United States should never do, given the lack of flexibility or nimbleness of the immigration system here, is to put anything in a statute that will lock the nation into any one approach for many decades. He said that it will be important in the next round of comprehensive immigration reform, whenever that comes, to include a mechanism that will enable the government to change course more easily than is currently the case. “We see all of the countries trying various programs and we might try to copy parts of them but we can’t,” said Cissna. “They are able to change quickly and we are not.”
In terms of what the United States can learn from other countries’ experiences with immigration reform, he singled out the various entrepreneur programs that countries are implementing under the assumption that the United States is likely to follow suit in some manner. “We need to see what successes these other countries have and perhaps copy or take the best parts of them,” said Cissna. Another area where other countries’ experiences will be useful is learning how to protect native workers while responding to the needs of U.S. businesses. “We have a very complicated way of doing that now, but maybe there are more efficient ways of doing it that other countries are pulling off
without diminishing the level of protection for American workers that we currently have,” said Cissna.
Pia Orrenius, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, asked Wadsworth if he could comment on why the British government’s position on immigration has changed so dramatically over the past 10 years from one that was very pro-immigrant to one that aims to be far more restrictive. Wadsworth’s answer was that there was a change of government. “To be fair, I think the U.K. position is not hostile to immigration,” he said, noting that both pro- and anti-immigration voices are being heard, just as they are in any other economy, and that there has been more of a shift in emphasis rather than in overall policy. It might also be the electoral challenges emanating from the rising support for U.K. Independence Party and other Euroskeptic parties. According to Wadsworth, politicians in the U.K. acknowledge the importance of immigration policy issues and understand the potential economic benefits of immigration at least as far as students are concerned. He added that most employers focus on recruiting the best talent regardless of their country of origin. While policy makers have realized that while their rhetoric may be stridently anti-immigration, they have to make sure that the U.K. economy is not damaged by restrictive policies.
When asked to clarify his comments about the Middle Eastern countries having liberal immigration policies, Hugo said that these countries have a flexible system that gives employers great power over immigrants given that an immigrant’s work visa is tied to a specific employer, as is the case with the U.S. H-1B visa. At the same time, there are potential abuses in the Middle East as far as wages, working conditions, etc. for workers.
Edward Alden, from the Council on Foreign Relations, then asked Hugo if he knew whether the Chinese government encourages Chinese students who get their PhDs in the United States to return to China or if the government was satisfied with the type of arrangement Hugo had described for Chinese PhDs in Australia, where in effect they have joint appointments. Hugo said that it is his understanding that there was a “seismic shift in overall policy at the national and regional level in China,” about 4 to 5 years ago. Today, while China does encourage its PhDs to return, it now has in place a range of initiatives that facilitate the flow of information, ideas, and technologies that these expatriates produce. “The Chinese government was one of the first to realize that these diaspora linkages can be used in both directions,” Hugo said. He also noted that the Chinese academics that he interviewed in Australia were all engaged in joint projects with Chinese colleagues and made regular visits to China. One-third of Chinese academics had definite intentions to return to China full time at some point.
Referring to the challenge of credentialing migrants, Dulberger asked the panelists if they could explain how credentialing works in various countries. Hawthorne responded that the key thing to remember about credentialing is
that it is controlled largely by regulatory bodies that are still using systems designed in the 19th century and are not fit for 21st century mobility patterns. For the most part, credentialing is used as a form of protectionism, but if the goal is to attract high-skilled migrants, such protectionism has the effect of driving skilled migrants away given that they may not want to invest the time that it will take to get full certification in a host country with restrictive credentialing. In a study in which she looked at international medical school graduates, Hawthorne found that 60 percent of these doctors had made six or more major geographic moves, often staying only 3 or 4 years in a particular host country. Governments of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand incur huge financial burdens associated with securing full professional certifications for high-skilled immigrants.
These factors are driving the demand for conditional licensing provisions. Conditional licensing is happening in select countries in health care, accounting, engineering, and other fields but these countries seem reluctant to document the extent to which it is happening. They are also prompting countries to better select skilled immigrants from the applicant pool because there may be a significant need for training once people migrate and find that they cannot get find full-time employment in their field of expertise.
Michael Teitelbaum, of the Harvard Law School, asked Hawthorne if demographic survival plays a role in creating public opinion about immigration in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Hawthorne reiterated Mayda’s comment that public opinion about migration is very complex and said that each of those three countries could undergo massive population growth by expanding refugee flows, but none of these countries is interested in doing that in part because of the fiscal demands associated with refugees, but also because of a negative public opinion about refugees. The Australian government, for example, changed its immigration policies in 1988 after realizing that those policies were out of synch with popular opinion. Australia addressed the public’s concerns by changing its policies to select migrants who were seen as being fit for Australia’s immediate and longer-term economic interests. “I think that catalyzed the major shift toward skilled migration which we’ve persisted with since,” said Hawthorne, referring to Australia’s current immigration policies. She also said that every time Australia’s government has conducted a major review of those policies, it looked at how it can ensure better outcomes for its immigrants so that the public tolerance of an increasingly diverse population does not become problematic. “Certainly, in the past 15 years as the skilled migration program had a very positive story to tell about economic benefit, early employments, diminished welfare dependence, etc., the anti-migration lobby which had become very vociferous about 10 or 15 years back, has been muted,” said Hawthorne.
Hunt noted that Quebec’s pro-immigration policies are at least in part a response to public concern that Quebec’s population is decreasing relative to Ontario’s. Beach added that every survey conducted over the past 20 to 30 years has shown that the Canadian public in general is strongly supportive of immigration, at least at current levels. He attributed Canadian’s attitude toward immigration as one that reflects the extent to which multiculturalism is valued and supported in Canada and not as a reaction to a fear that Canada will be overwhelmed by its much larger neighbor to the south. Hugo added that one factor that drives public opinion in Australia is the concern over the country’s limited resources. Australia may be large, he said, but has only as much arable farmland as Iowa and Illinois. He explained that Australia has had quite sophisticated discussions about immigration and sustainability issues.
In Jean-Christophe Dumont’s opinion, public attitudes about high-skilled migration in most OECD countries are mostly positive, with the United States being an exception. As a result, almost all OECD countries have routes for high-skilled migrants that are fairly open. Mayda agreed with Dumont and said that on average, people in Europe are in favor of policies that attract skilled migrants. However, there are some powerful groups that still oppose the arrival of skilled migrants and that have undue influence on immigration policies.
Turning to the subject of data and the need for data to develop evidence-based immigration policies, Merrill asked the panelists to identify the minimum data requirements needed to support evidence-based immigration policies. Hawthorne said that she would like to see more data regarding the mobility of temporary migrants and how policies that increase the number of temporary migrants impact the stability of the workforce, given that temporary migrants are the ones who are most likely to leave the country. Hugo said that evidence is important not just to sharpen policy but to combat myths that adversely impact public support for migrants. He said, too, that there need to be new ways of measuring migration that reflect the fact that migration is much different today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, when many of the measures used today were developed. In particular, the migration models used for data collection today are strongly biased toward permanent immigration and do not capture enough of the non-permanent migration that is taking place and that is relevant to discussions about skilled migrants. He applauded the efforts of organizations such as the OECD that are making the best out of the data that are available, but he called upon the community to develop new approaches to data collection that would better reflect the actual patterns of migration that are occurring in today’s global economy.